KZN Health lambasted for lack of care and ‘reckless’ litigation

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KwaZulu-Natal’s Health Department has received a judicial tongue-lashing, first for an ‘astounding’ lack of care given to a mom who gave birth to a brain-damaged baby, and then for wasting money by fighting her damages claim, reports News24.

Acting Judge Sandhya Mahabeer, in a recent judgment, said it should have been obvious from the “joint minutes” signed by medical experts representing the mom, Nokwanda Charlotte Mqadi, and the department that “the claim was indefensible”. “But it proceeded to trial anyway,” the judge said, ordering the department to compensate Mqadi for damages relating to the future care of his son and all legal and medical costs.

Mqadi’s attorney Michael Friedman added that the costs could be as much as R500,000. The report says the claim – which would be settled either through negotiation or at a future trial – would be in the region of R15 to R20m. “What this judgment highlights is that the department litigates recklessly without thought to costs. Also, they prevented this child from receiving treatment which he has needed since birth which is an abuse of his human rights,” Friedman said.

Th report says the mom was admitted to Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital just after midnight on 15 July, 2013. She was already 41 weeks pregnant. She was finally given a caesarian section late that night. Evidence of experts, and clinical notes, revealed that she had not been monitored at all for between six and eight hours during the day, after being given a labour-inducing drug – and this is probably when the brain damage occurred. Mahabeer said even the department’s expert had agreed that this was “substandard” care.

“While I accept that state hospitals routinely face challenging work conditions and limited resources, failure to conduct basic assessments and keep proper records cannot be justified,” the judge said. “There was no proper monitoring from 09:30 to 11:30 and then worse – much worse – the staff failed to monitor her at all from 11:30 to 17:30. Even after then, they made critical mistakes, including confusing the maternal heart rate with the foetal heart rate.”

According to the report, she said a “difference in pen ink” on maternity records was suspicious. “But even if I give the department the benefit of the doubt, it is evidence of a superficial assessment of a patient who was already high-risk. “The level of interest and concern for the mom and the child is starkly absent.”

News24 report

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